The Ivy Hides the Fig Ripe Duchess
The Ivy Hides the Fig-ripe Duchess is an exhilarating first collection of poems from Ellie Evans. Using a surrealist palette of imagery and a tightly focused idiom, the author takes us on strange journeys:to the post-apocalyptic world of the title poem, or into a skewed 18th century Venice in ‘The Zograscope’. These strange worlds are always to the purpose, they are, as Marianne Moore famously said of poetry ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them.’ We obliquely unearth childhood trauma, fraught or intense relationships and also a singular (and perhaps also Welsh?) delight in rebellion, and in escape through the imagination. Poems like ‘Picnic with Earthquakes’ and ‘Jekyl Island, Georgia’ deftly align exotic locales (Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Greece and the USA,) with intimate states of mind. A fascination with art and history emerge in: ‘A Brief History of Topiary’ and ‘Two Monologues from The Odyssey’. There is also a palpable delight in technique: you will find a sonnet, a villanelle, triolets and a concise free verse where she employs rhyme, half-rhyme, and subtle alliteration.
"Ellie Evans's poetry sings without pretension" - Leah Fritz, Poetry Review
Listen to Ellie Evans read her title poem, ‘The Ivy Hides the Fig-Ripe Duchess’:
Review from Poetry Review
The Ivy Hides the Fig Ripe Duchess is refreshing on its surface simplicity. Evans's associations are always logical, even in this poem about the end of the world as she imagines it. "After the first purges, the fields were full or corpses / whose nails went on growing, curling into the earth like sickles", it begins, and moves on to leftover typewriters, etc. Nothing spectacular, but well made.
I especially like 'Ant in Vaseline', with its metaphorical insect on a microscope slide, and its conclusion:
That's how I hurl myself, my jaw agape,
against my see-through ceiling,
see-through jelly walls,
my see-through floor.
There's an amusing sonnet, 'IKEA Room Set' and a deliciously sweet 'New Curate at Llanina':
Acknowledged suitor now, he comes at twilight
picking his way between the corn stooks
because he's carrying a tray of rings
which wink and sparkle as the darkness grows.
A fine two-part sequence about time takes title, 'The Bald Sexton', from Shakespeare; but never mind. Ellie Evans's poetry sings without pretension.
Leah Fritz, Poetry Review Vol 101:4 Winter 2011
Review from Poetry Wales
First collections can take their time coming to fruition. Sometimes this shows in the disparate nature if poems written over a lengthy period during which a poet's voice and concerns may change, and the world itself moves on.
The edginess of the collection is particularly striking in poems of childhood, where unease lurks beneath the surface of games.
Evans is a technically accomplished poet. The collection contains an elegy, monologues, a villanelle, a sonnet and a prose poem. She is also is an expert user of subtle rhyme. In 'The Faithful Couple' internal assonance enacts the connection of the title:
They could be felled by summer storm
like The Telescope, nearby. Like that, too,
they'd still bear seed. Lightning and fire
in the burnt earth will sprout their cones.
"...The Ivy Hides the Fig Ripe Duchess successfully leads the reader through strange places and strong emotion. I very much enjoyed the trip."
Katherine Stansfield, Poetry Wales Winter 11/12 No:3 Vol 47 www.poetrywales.co.uk